Your office is the beach and your idea of a tea break is heading to the local bar for an ice cold beer. You can work from anywhere in the world, at any time, as long as you can get online. For you, ‘the commute’ is a short stroll to a shady spot under a palm tree.
Hmmm. If only it was that simple. In fact, life as a digital nomad can be fraught with obstacle and stress. Typically, the wage isn’t regular, the lifestyle is transient and the travel expenses constant. Without consistent, clever monitoring of your money, it’s back to British soil with your tail between your legs before you know it. With that terrifying proposition in mind, here are 5 IDEAL tips for managing your finances as a digital nomad.
CURRENCY EXCHANGE CANNY
Simply withdrawing money from your bank can be a dangerous game to play indeed, as bank fees for taking out money abroad can be astronomical (never opt for your home country’s exchange rate when offered at an ATM machine, by the way).
If you spend your time focused on just one or two countries abroad, you may find that it ends up being cheaper and more convenient having bank accounts in each of those countries and transferring your earnings over when you need them. Normal bank transfers can be expensive, so it’s usually cheaper to do this through a money transfer service. Above all, avoid currency exchanges at physical counters whenever possible; these skim off a pretty significant percentage of your money each time you use them.
BE AWARE OF YOUR TAX OBLIGATIONS
You might think that one of the many great things about being in constant motion means that you’re no longer obliged to pay taxes back in Blighty. This simply isn’t the case.
Tax rules can be complicated and vary hugely from country to country, but generally, if you’re earning money abroad for less than a year and then returning to Britain, you’re going to need to pay some tax. What’s more, you may not just have to pay taxes in your home country – you may also be liable for taxes in the countries you’re travelling around.
This gets extremely complex, so do your research thoroughly and seek professional advice on your specific set of circumstances. It may seem like money that doesn’t need spending, but knowing when and where you are going to have to pay tax could save you lots of money and hassle in the long run. Always declare your earnings via self-assessment to keep things above board.
KEEP A DETAILED TRACK OF YOUR INCOME & EXPENDITURE
Monitoring the amount you spend and on what is essential when you’re a digital nomad. Keeping track of your incomings and outgoings on a spreadsheet means that you can analyse patterns of spending, times of the month when you’re earning less, and so on, and as such curtail any bad budgeting habits. It’s also useful when you come to do those taxes to have a detailed record on your system.
BUILD A BUFFER
Saving some money and setting up a separate ‘emergency’ account into which you pay a small sum each month is a sound idea, giving you a buffer for when your budgeting inevitably hits the occasional skids. The nature of the work of a digital nomad is unpredictable and unreliable, and income is rarely steady. Getting into debt can spell the end of this lifestyle. Running out of money is difficult in any walk of life, but if you aren’t classed as a resident in your home country anymore, and haven’t budgeted for a buffer, then a short-term loans website is an acceptable last resort.
ALWAYS BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR HIDDEN COSTS
It might sound surprising, but being aware of hidden costs can spell the difference between feeling the sea breeze and a return to the blow of the office air-conditioning unit. A big part of digital nomadism, for instance, is time spent in a coffee shop. Every espresso you enjoy and each flapjack you indulge in should go into your budget as outgoings; it’s your office space rental fee after all. Ditto Ubers or Grab taxis which take you from the cafe back to your house, as this is your ‘commute’. You get the picture. Try and keep your everyday costs down. The life and work of a digital nomad is intertwined in a way which standard office work isn’t. Be wise to this.